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The Best Messenger Bags for Tech, Travel, and EDC (2023)

CEO Tinh Phung
If you're someone who values access and agility in your carry gear, then messenger bags and shoulder bags are the way to go. While backpacks and duffels have their place, messenger bags provide quick and...

If you're someone who values access and agility in your carry gear, then messenger bags and shoulder bags are the way to go. While backpacks and duffels have their place, messenger bags provide quick and easy access to your gear while on the move. They're also great for those who prefer to carry smaller loads or want a more professional look for work settings. In this article, we'll explore some of the best messenger bags and shoulder bags available, offering versatility, style, and functionality for various needs and settings.

Messengers vs Shoulder Bags

Before diving into the best brands and models, it's important to understand the difference between messengers and shoulder bags. While the terms are often used interchangeably, they do have distinct characteristics. Messengers are typically designed for more active use, like cycling or outdoor activities, and often come with stabilizer straps for load stability. Shoulder bags, on the other hand, are more suitable for sedate settings. However, this doesn't mean you can't use messengers in less strenuous settings or find shoulder bags that can handle a little adventure now and then.

Best Shoulder Bag for Travel

Traveling often requires a bag that can keep your belongings secure. The Pacsafe Metrosafe LS200 is a compact and anti-theft shoulder bag that excels in both carry-on and day trip usage. It features an integrated Lockabout security clip, eXomesh slashguards, Carrysafe slashguard strap, zipper hooks, and RFIDsafe blocking pocket to keep your belongings safe. With a padded 10" tablet sleeve and plenty of pockets for organization, the Metrosafe LS200 is a reliable travel companion.

Best Heritage-Style Shoulder Bag

For those who appreciate the charm of old-school leather bags with modern functionality, look no further than the WP Standard Meridian Messenger Bag. Crafted with full-grain vegetable-tanned leather, this bag ages beautifully over time. It features a padded laptop compartment and multiple interior and exterior pockets for storage.

Best Heritage-Style Messenger

The Trakke Bairn Messenger Bag is a versatile option that transitions seamlessly from the office to outdoor adventures. Handmade in Scotland, it boasts a weatherproof design with a dry-finish waxed canvas lining. With various pockets, including an interior 13" laptop sleeve, keeping your belongings organized on the move is a breeze. Another noteworthy option is the Bedouin Foundry Barbarossa, which combines sophisticated design with premium materials and meticulous craftsmanship. Handmade in England, this messenger bag features 12 oz. waxed canvas and Italian vegetable-tanned leather for a durable and stylish option.

Best Shoulder Bag for Tech

Tech enthusiasts need a bag that can safely carry their devices and accessories. The Cargo Works 15" MacBook Pro Retina EDC Kit is a rugged and organized option that remains slim and adaptable. It offers two compartments, elastic webbing, and multiple pockets for easy organization. The padded main compartment keeps your laptop safe, and the bag can be carried by hand, shoulder strap, or secured to the handle of rolling luggage.

Best Tech Messenger Bags

When it comes to dedicated tech carry, the Chrome Industries Buran III is a standout option. It combines heritage styling with modern features, including a dedicated padded 17" laptop sleeve and multiple pockets for quick and secure access to your tech and EDC items. Additionally, the Timbuk2 Especial Stash is designed to keep your tech secure and protected from the elements. With a waterproof interior compartment and reflective detailing, it's perfect for daily commuting.

Best Budget Messenger Bag for Laptops

If you're on a budget but still need a reliable laptop messenger bag, consider the Incase Compass Messenger. With its sleek simplicity and padded 15" laptop sleeve, it blends seamlessly into work and play environments, offering straightforward organization and functionality.

Best Shoulder Bag for Laptops

For those who prefer shoulder bags specifically designed for laptops, the Bellroy Via Work Bag offers water-resistant organization and a variety of pockets. It includes a padded 16" laptop pocket, a luggage pass-through sleeve, and a detachable shoulder strap for added convenience.

Best Tactical Messengers

If you need a messenger bag that can withstand demanding use, the ORBITGear R222 MK24 "Raptor" is a versatile option with a robust build. Its handmade 580D elecor shell and ambidextrous strap system ensure durability and easy portability. Another option to consider is the Greenroom136 Metrorunner PRIME Tactical, which offers excellent handmade construction, practical design, and great value for money. Its VX42 laminated X-Pac material and premium hardware make it suitable for a range of day-to-day needs.

Best Tactical Shoulder Bags

When it comes to tactical shoulder bags, the Mystery Ranch Indie Shoulder Bag is a reliable and adaptable option. Built tough and designed to accommodate changing loads and environments, it comes in durable yet lightweight materials. The Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable is another versatile choice, with stowable backpack straps, a removable shoulder strap, and top grab handles. It adapts to a range of carry needs and offers plenty of pockets for organization.

Best Shoulder Bags for Photography

Photographers need bags that not only protect their gear but also offer easy access and organization. The Chrome Industries Niko Hold Camera Bag is a versatile option that can function as a standalone camera bag or fit inside another bag to convert it into a camera bag. It offers a wide opening, customizable dividers, and various carrying options. Another great option is the f-stop Florentin, which features a water-resistant and low-profile design, making it perfect for urban photography.

Best Photography Messenger Bags

For those who want a messenger bag specifically designed for photography, the Peak Design Everyday Messenger is a top choice. With its innovative features, customizable organization, and stylish design, it excels as both an EDC bag and a camera bag. The ONA Brooklyn Camera Messenger Bag combines vintage charm with a functional photography twist. It offers easy access, customizable dividers, and a durable leather construction.

Best Messenger Bags for Professionals

Professionals require bags that are functional, stylish, and suitable for work settings. The Lexdray Symmetry Mumbai Messenger Bag offers flexibility and a touch of personality while still maintaining a clean and work-ready design. The Bellroy Duo Work Bag packs a lot of functionality into an understated design, with a padded laptop compartment and various pockets for organization. Another option is the Ally Capellino Jeremy Small Waxed Cotton Satchel, which combines lightweight and durable materials with a sleek and professional look.

Best Cycling Messengers for Professionals

For professionals who commute by bike, messenger bags that can handle active use and protect your belongings are essential. The Restrap Pack Messenger Bag is a weatherproof and versatile option that transitions smoothly between cycling and office use. It features a stabilizer strap for load stability and can accommodate a 13" laptop. Another reliable choice is the Apidura City Messenger, which combines technical construction with clean aesthetics. Its waterproof material and zipless opening make it suitable for both bike commuting and daily use.

Best 'Designer' Shoulder Bags

For those who appreciate designer bags with both fashion and function, the Ally Capellino Kenny is a lightweight and water-resistant option that suits various carry environments. The côte&ciel Oder-Spree Memory Tech Messenger Bag offers ergonomic design and functional organization, making it a stylish and practical choice.

Best Large Japanese Messenger

The AS2OV Cordura Dobby 305D 2Way Bag offers rugged street style, flexible carry options, and ample space for overnight trips or hauling large loads. Its versatile design allows you to carry it as a messenger bag or tote, and it features a padded compartment for laptops.

Key Considerations When Choosing Your Bag

When choosing a messenger or shoulder bag, there are several factors to consider. Style is important, so think about where you'll be using the bag and choose a design and colorway accordingly. Size and weight should be proportionate to the gear you carry, and access points should be easily accessible. Durability is crucial, especially if you're using the bag for demanding activities or outdoor adventures. Lastly, comfort is key, so look for features like wide shoulder straps and padding for enhanced comfort.

In conclusion, messenger bags and shoulder bags offer a convenient and stylish way to carry your gear. Whether you're traveling, commuting, or pursuing outdoor activities, there's a bag on this list to suit your needs. So go ahead and find the perfect messenger bag to accompany you on your next adventure!

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What's your favorite messenger bag or shoulder bag? Let us know in the comments!

This article was originally published on 26 February 2019 and recently updated.